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This easy pan fried tofu is super crispy outside, chewy inside, and packed with flavor as a versatile plant-based protein, all with just 4 ingredients & in under 25 minutes- no pressing required!

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Quick and Easy Crispy Pan Fried Tofu

Between options like Thai basil tofu, sweet & spicy tofu, buttery lemon tofu (and more!), we certainly aren’t lacking ideas for flavor-packed vegan tofu recipes. However, if it’s a crisp texture that you desire and you don’t have an air fryer or fancy breaded tofu, pan fried tofu is ideal!

This simple pan fried tofu recipe requires no special kitchen tools and is faster than baking tofu, with even crispier results. Better yet, although we’ve provided a recipe for a simple marinade, tofu is an impressive blank canvas, meaning there are heaps of opportunities to experiment.

Once pan-fried, this vegan fried tofu is packed with plant-based protein (about 17 grams per 100g!), gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan, and makes for a delicious and versatile protein for practically any meal – with rice, quinoa, noodles, stir-fries, salads, and more.

The Ingredients

  • Tofu: Use extra-firm tofu for the best results (or firm tofu as a backup- but then it will need pressing). We prefer to use organic, non-GMO tofu when possible.
  • Cornstarch: Don’t omit starch from the ingredients because it’s key to the crispy outer layer on pan fried tofu. If you don’t have cornstarch, arrowroot flour should work.
  • Soy sauce: Use dark, light, or reduced-sodium soy sauce (or tamari/ coconut aminos if you’re gluten-free). This packs in salty, savory, umami-rich flavor. Smoked soy sauce will also work for extra smoky flavor depth.
  • Oil: Use a high-heat cooking oil like avocado oil/vegetable oil or even sesame oil for a toasty, nutty flavor.
  • Seasonings: (optional) If you want to add even more flavor to the crispy fried tofu, try garlic powder (and optionally onion powder) and smoked paprika.

Or have fun experimenting with other herbs and spices like black pepper, dried oregano, Italian seasoning, chili powder, cumin, nutritional yeast (for a nutty cheesiness), taco seasoning, an Asian stir-fry marinade, etc.

Please read the recipe card below for the full ingredients list, measurements, complete recipe method, and nutritional information.

How to Pan Fry Tofu

For the crispiest results, press the tofu for 30 minutes using a tofu press or by wrapping it in a kitchen towel and placing a heavy skillet and/or several large books on top. However, this step is completely optional.

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the soy sauce, cornstarch, and seasonings (if using) and mix.
  2. Then, cut the tofu into bite-sized cubes (or strips/triangles) by slicing it in half lengthwise and then into about 1-inch cubes.
Whisking together soy sauce, cornstarch, and seasonings
combined soy sauce, cornstarch, and seasonings
Cut up tofu into bite-sized 1-inch cubes.

If you haven’t pressed the tofu, quickly pat it dry before adding it to the bowl.

  1. Add the tofu cubes to the bowl and toss to coat well.
Tofu cubes in a bowl being tossed to coat well.

Optionally allow that to marinate for 15-30 minutes for the tofu to soak up the marinade.

  1. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat until shimmering.
  2. Once hot, lower the heat to medium and add the tofu to the pan in a single layer (work in batches if necessary).
  3. Pan-fry the tofu for 2-3 minutes per side or until your desired crispiness is achieved. Ensure you don’t move it around the pan while cooking for the best sear. Enjoy!
Marinated tofu in a single layer on a cast iron pan.

What to Serve With Crispy Tofu?

This simple but flavorful crispy pan-fried tofu, hot or cold, is a versatile protein to enjoy:

Storage Instructions

Once pressed and cubed, you can store the tofu in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days (or in the marinade for up to a day), ready to pan-fry when required.

Pan-seared tofu will be crispiest directly from the pan. To save any leftovers, allow them to cool and store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

You can also freeze tofu for up to 3 months if it wasn’t previously frozen, but just be aware that the texture of tofu becomes chewier/meatier post-freeze, and you’ll lose the crispiness.

To reheat it, add it back to a large skillet with a little oil over medium heat.

Pan fried tofu in a white speckled bowl on a textured white surface.

Pro Recipe Tips for Crispy Pan Fried Tofu

  • Use firm tofu: Extra-firm is best, though firm tofu will do. Don’t go any softer than that, though; the tofu won’t crisp up or hold its shape well.
  • Press the tofu: While it’s not necessary, it’s a good idea for the crispiest pan fried tofu. This step removes extra liquid and allows it to soak up marinades more.
  • Use a hot pan: The tofu should sizzle as soon as it’s added to the pan. This will ensure perfectly pan-seared tofu with a crisp, golden-brown outer shell.
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan: Work in batches. An overcrowded pan won’t allow the pieces to crisp up, as they’ll steam from the close proximity.
  • Leave it to sear: For the crispiest pan fried tofu, don’t move it around too much while it cooks. Leave it to become crispy and form the golden-brown crust on the bottom before flipping and repeating on every side.
  • For extra crispy tofu: After pan-frying the tofu, transfer it to a preheated oven and bake at 375F/190C for 10-15 minutes or until super crispy and brown.

FAQs

Do I need to press the tofu before pan-frying it?

If you’re using extra-firm tofu and running low on time, we’d say skip the pressing. While it makes the tofu crispier, it’s still great without it. However, if you have to use firm tofu, we highly recommend pressing it first since it helps the tofu to soak up any sauce/marinade more and removes excess liquid to help it become crispier.

Can I use frozen tofu?

Yes, you can use frozen (thawed) tofu for this pan fried tofu recipe. Tofu that has been frozen and thawed has a spongier consistency and meatier texture with less overall moisture, meaning it soaks up flavors better and becomes crispier when pan-fried.

How long to pan fry tofu?

Tofu takes 2-3 minutes per side of medium to medium-high heat to create a golden-brown, crispy sear.

Fried tofu in a white speckled bowl with a light grey cloth napkin beside it.

More Easy Tofu Recipes

Or enjoy browsing our entire collection of budget-friendly vegan tofu recipes – like tofu bolognese, coconut curry, and fish sticks!

Quick Crispy Pan Fried Tofu

4.60 from 5 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
Servings: 2
This easy pan fried tofu is super crispy outside, chewy inside, and packed with flavor as a versatile plant-based protein, all with just 4 ingredients & in under 25 minutes- no pressing required!

Ingredients 

  • 16 ounces super firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons high heat oil

Instructions 

  • In a medium bowl, mix the soy sauce, cornstarch, and garlic powder and smoked paprika if using. Then add the tofu cubes and coat well.
  • Heat a large non-stick pan over high heat. Add the oil and spread it all over the pan.
  • Once the oil is hot, lower the heat to medium and add the tofu in a single layer. Work in batches if your pan is not big enough.
  • Cook each side for 2-3 minutes or until desired crispiness is achieved.
  • Serve hot or cold.

Notes

Have fun experimenting with other herbs and spices like black pepper, dried oregano, Italian seasoning, chili powder, cumin, nutritional yeast (for a nutty cheesiness), taco seasoning, an Asian stir-fry marinade, etc.
For the crispiest results, press the tofu for 30 minutes using a tofu press or by wrapping it in a kitchen towel and placing a heavy skillet and/or several large books on top. However, this step is completely optional.

Nutrition

Serving: 2gCalories: 62kcalCarbohydrates: 13gProtein: 2gFat: 0.1gSaturated Fat: 0.01gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.04gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.01gSodium: 1008mgPotassium: 62mgFiber: 0.5gSugar: 0.4gVitamin A: 123IUVitamin C: 0.02mgCalcium: 6mgIron: 1mg

Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

Additional Info

Author: Toni Okamoto
Course: Appetizer, Entree
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedOnABudget! 🙂

About

Toni Okamoto

“They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
‘Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways…
we got to start taking better care of ourselves ” – Dead Prez

More about Toni Okamoto
4.60 from 5 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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  1. 3 stars
    I tried this recipe today for lunch. I used slices of tofu rather than cubes because I wanted to use it in a sandwich for something similar to a BLT. The mixture really sticks like glue to the bowl I mixed it in. I had to take a spoon and spread it on the tofu with my fingers. Taste was good, but I don’t think I would make it again. Best way I’ve found for pan fried tofu is to sprinkle on seasonings and rub it in with my fingers. Thank you